Lent begins tomorrow. Still on the fence about whether to give something up? Here are 5 quick reasons you should go for it:
Discipleship. At its core, discipleship means following and becoming more like Jesus. Early in his ministry, Jesus fasted for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-11). He also assumed that his followers would fast (Matthew 6:16-18). Lent is a great opportunity to follow his example of fasting.
Unity. It’s easy for those of us in independent churches to forget that we’re part of a movement stretching back two millennia, and spanning the far corners of the globe. Observing Lent is a way to broaden our vision and symbolically join hands with the larger Christian family.
Empathy. It’s also easy for us to forget that, in many parts of the world, following Jesus is a costly decision (last weekend’s horrific beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians was the most recent reminder). Depriving ourselves during Lent helps us to share, in some small way, the sacrifice of being a believer.
Self-Control. “Everything is permissible for me,” wrote Paul, “but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Lenten fasting is a way of ensuring that we are not mastered by caffeine…or Facebook…or alcohol…or clothes shopping…or _____________.
Joy. To me, this is the best one. Consider two things Jesus said while fasting: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). And “I have food to eat that you know nothing about. My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:32, 34). In other words: when we choose to not fill ourselves with food or some other comfort, we open ourselves up to the richness of being filled by God. That might sound overly mystical, but fasting has given me a small taste of that joy and I’m looking for more. And speaking of joy, picture yourself on Easter Sunday: the feast will be all the sweeter when it’s preceded by a fast!
(If you're interested in the reasons why our church is observing Lent this year for the first time, see this earlier blog post: http://www.davegustavsen.com/blog/why-observe-lent).